Life Empowerment

How to Become Whole in a Relationship

OK… So I know I don’t really write anything about “relationships” but this time it’s different. When I write these blog posts I have to be inspired or have to be experiencing it in real life. 

The reason why I’am writing this post, is because of a really beautiful lady I’ve met last Summer from work. Let’s just call her “Ms. Bundle of Joy.” We were speaking last week at work and I realized that something was wrong. It sounded and looked like she was going through some things, so I asked what’s wrong. She replied that she was going through some hardships with her current relationship and that they have broken up a couple of days after we spoke about it. And this is what ignited the fire within me to write this blog post.

This girl has been one of the most sweetest human being I’ve met in life and from work. She doesn’t deserve the toxic feelings she has inside of her at the moment, she deserves better than that. She’s also one of the most prettiest girl I’ve every met with an amazing smile and a star gazing dreamy eyes.

I dedicate this post to “Ms. Bundle of Joy.”

I HOPE YOU TAKE THIS IN, AND KEEP ENJOYING THIS BEAUTIFUL JOURNEY THAT WE CALL “LIFE.”

Alright! Let’s take an example of a woman I know who spends a lot of her day wondering what her boyfriend is doing, looking for clues that he loves her, wondering why he isn’t paying attention to her, worrying that he’s flirting with other girls on social media.

(Note that this applies to both men & women; I’ve just chosen a woman in this example.)

She’s not happy in this relationship — she’s dependent on him for her happiness, and unhappy when he’s not providing the validation she needs, when he doesn’t show how much he loves her. She’s insecure, jealous, needy. This doesn’t make for a good relationship, or a happy person.

What a Whole Person Looks Like

Before we can talk about relationships, we have to focus on one person, because when you have two people the equation gets a little more complicated. Let’s take the simplest part of the equation first — just you.

When you’re whole, you don’t need someone else’s validation to be happy — because you accept yourself. You don’t need someone else to love you in order to feel loved — because you love yourself. That’s not to say you don’t love to be loved by others, or want others in your life — but you already provide the foundation of what you need, all by yourself, by accepting and loving yourself.

When you’re whole, you are not insecure, because you aren’t worried so much about the other person leaving. Sure, it would be a great loss for your loved one to abandon you, but you’d be fine on your own. You wouldn’t be “alone” because you have the best company in the world — yourself. You know you’d survive, be happy, do great things, even without that person. That’s not to say you don’t want your lover to stay — but you aren’t always afraid of the possibility of that person leaving.

When you’re whole, you don’t need the other person to check in with you all the time, because you’re happy on your own. You’re OK if they go do their own thing, because you’re secure in your relationship and you’re perfectly fine doing your own thing too. You don’t need reassurance of that person’s love, because you’re secure.

See, in my opinion I believe that love is not an emotion, it’s a choice.

Two Whole People Coming Together

A solid relationship is two whole (or at least, fairly whole) people coming together because they love each other’s company. They’re not coming together because they need someone to love them all the time, because they need someone’s company all the time, because they need to be shown that they’re loved.

If one person is whole but the other person is needy, dependent, insecure … the whole person will do the best that he or she can to help the other, but over the long run will feel weary of all the neediness and insecurity, and will feel resentment. If both are needy and insecure, there will be constant fights about why you didn’t check in with me, why you’re so distant today, why you’re talking to that guy, what you’re doing when you go out with your friends, etc.

But if both people are whole, they can be apart and are secure enough not to worry about the other person, and are happy being alone. They can come together and be happy, enjoying each other’s company. They don’t need each other, but love each other and care for the other person’s happiness — not worrying so much about their own happiness, because they are secure that they’re already happy.

The respect each other, and themselves. They are compassionate for each other, and themselves.

This is a relationship with two whole people.

Becoming Whole

So what if you’re not this “whole” person, and want to be? Realize you already have everything you need to be whole — you just need to let go of the insecurities, and realize how awesome you already are. You don’t need improvement — you need to realize that the awesomeness is already there.

How do you let go of the insecurities? That’s not so easy, because it’s a slow healing process, but it starts by recognizing them when they appear, and then letting them go. Notice that you’re worried about what your significant other is doing, and then recognize that you’re worried they don’t love you as much as they should, and that means you are worried you’re not good enough … then let go of that worry. You don’t need it. You are good enough.

If you’re good enough, that means the other person will either recognize that and love you, or won’t recognize it (and therefore won’t be deserving of you) and will not love you, but you’ll be fine because you’re OK on your own. If you’re good enough, you’ll be good enough with or without this person. That’s not to say you want the person to leave, or don’t care about the person, but you know that you’d be OK if they did leave you.

Knowing that, you’re OK no matter what: whether that person is on a trip, out with friends, working late, even angry with you. You’re good, as you are, on your own, and you don’t need anything else.

When worries about whether you’re good enough crop up, recognize them, let them go. When worries about whether the other person loves you crop up, recognize them, let them go. When fears of the other person flirting with someone else crop up, recognize them, let them go (worst case scenario: the person cheats, you leave them, you’re OK on your own).

Recognize the fears and worries, and let them go. Relax into this new space of being OK with yourself, being happy on your own, knowing things will always be OK.

Once you’ve learned this wholeness, you can come together with someone else with confidence, love, compassion, security.

-AG

A More Deliberate Way of Living

Our lives are often spent in a rush, almost on autopilot, drifting from one wave of busyness and distraction to another, adrift in a sea of crisis and urges.

There’s noise and quick tasks, lots of tabs, messages and requests, demands on our attention, multitasking, mind scattered everywhere.

The nature of the world is chaos, but what if we could find a more deliberate way of moving through the chaos?

I’m going to share some ways I’ve been trying to move more deliberately — none of them new to me or you, but more of a coming back to what I know to be helpful. We’re always coming back.

  1. Set intentions at the start. When you start your day, or any meaningful activity, check in with yourself and ask what your intentions are for the day or that activity. Do you want to be more present? Do you want to move your mission forward? Do you want to be compassionate with your loved ones? Do you want to practice with discomfort and not run to comfort? Set an intention (or three) and try to hold that intention as you move through the day or that meaningful activity.

  2. Pick your important tasks & make them your focus. What tasks are meaningful to you today? Pick just three (or even just one) and focus on that first. Put aside everything else (you can come back to all that later) and create space for what’s meaningful in your life.

  3. One activity at a time. If you’re going to write, close all other tabs and just write. If you’re going to brush your teeth, just do that. If the activity is important enough to include in the limited container of your life, it’s important enough to give it your full focus.  Treat it as if it might be your last act on earth.

  4. Use any activity as a meditation. This is really the same as the item above, but every single act is an opportunity to be fully with the activity. Everything we do can be a practice in breath, in presence, in deep consciousness. Treat each act as sacred, and practice.

  5. Create more space. Instead of filling every minute of the day with space, what would it be like to have some time of rest, solitude, quietude and reflection? My tendency (like many people, I suspect) is to finish one task and then immediately launch into the next. When there’s nothing to do, I’ll reach for my phone or computer and find something to read, to learn about, to respond to — something useful. But space is also useful. What would it look like to include space in our lives? Giving each activity an importance, and when it’s done, giving some weight to the space between activities. Taking a pause, and taking a breath. Reflecting on how the activity went, how I held my intention, how I want to spend the next hour of my life. Moving deliberately in that space, not rushing through it.

  6. Be in silence more. Our days are filled with noise — talking, messaging, taking in the cacophony of the online world. What if we deliberately created a space or two each day for being in silence? That could look like a couple of meditation sessions, a walk out in nature, a bath where we don’t read but just experience the bath, a time for tea and nothing else but the tea, or just stopping to watch a sunset (without taking photos). Silence is healing to the soul.

  7. Simplify by limiting or banning. We don’t have to say yes to every French fry or cookie, or every Youtube video or beer. We can choose what we want in our lives deliberately, and what we don’t want (or want less of) … then set limits or ban that activity. For example, can you limit sugar to one treat every week? Or go a month without alcohol? Or only watch Youtube videos between 6-7 pm? These kinds of limits help us to simplify and be more deliberate.

  8. Listen to what life is calling you to do. As we sit in silence, as we move deliberately into spaces we’ve created, as we check in with our intentions … we can listen. Listen to life, God, the universe, whatever you want to listen to … and see what its calling you to do. Maybe it’s just your own heart. But you’re being called, and if you listen, you will hear it.

When you add these together — and you don’t have to be perfect at any of them — they flow into a beautiful way to move through life.

-AG

How to Get Good at Dealing With Massive Change

It can be stressful and anxiety-inducing to be in the middle of a bunch of life changes at once — so much so that it can turn a time of change into a time of misery.

We all go through times of massive change: death in the family, change of job (or loss of job), moving to a new home or city, turbulence in your relationships, political chaos, and all kinds of uncertainties and demands on your time and attention.

It can be overwhelming and distressing. But what if we could get good at dealing with all kinds of changes? It would open us up in times of change, so that these times can be times of deepening, growth, and even joy.

We can train to get good at dealing with times of massive change.

And here’s a secret: actually, we’re always in times of change.

If you’re waiting for things to settle down, it’s a beautiful shift to let go of that and just relax into the groundlessness of it all.

“We are always in transition. If you can just relax with that, you’ll have no problem.”

~ Chogyam Trungpa

How Our Mind Usually Reacts to Change

Imagine if your entire life were upended overnight — a storm came and destroyed your home and your job, and you couldn’t find everyone you know and love. You don’t have any possessions, no way to communicate.

How would your mind react? It would react out of habitual patterns that have been formed since childhood.

Some common ways of reacting to massive change like this:

  • Your mind complains — it doesn’t like change that it didn’t choose. Your mind will have a narrative that asks “why me?” and/or gets angry. It’s unhappy about the changes.

  • Your mind gets angry at others — it blames and might lash out at them. Your mind asks, “Why do they have to be like that??” And this creates distance between you and them.

  • Your mind looks for comfort — a return to what you’re used to, what you know, what you’ve always gone to for comfort. If you became homeless, you might drink a soda or eat French fries or something, just to comfort yourself. In fact, we comfort ourselves all the time as a way to deal with stress and change: eating junk food, shopping, TV or Youtube, getting on your phone, social media, porn, etc.

  • Your mind tries to get control. This isn’t always a bad thing (making a list can be helpful, for example), but constantly striving for control isn’t helpful. In fact, it can be stressful, trying to control the massively uncontrollable.

  • There are helpful ways of coping as well — talking to someone, exercising, meditating, drinking some tea, taking a bath, etc. These are usually habits that people create to cope in a healthier way. However, in the example I’ve given (a storm making you homeless), and lots of other situations, these options might not be available.

What we’re going to train in is a different way of dealing with change, that will help us in any situation, and reduce stress, open our minds to chaotic experiences, and help us find joy and gratitude in the midst of turbulence.

How to Shift the Mind

So other than talking about it and taking a bath, what can we do to shift the way we deal with change?

It starts with the idea that disliking change, stress about change, and resistance to change are all in our minds. Everything that’s stressful and sucky about any change, or a great amount of change, is in our minds.

The good news about that is that if it’s in our minds, we can work with it. We can let go of things, shift things, open up to things … because our minds are adaptable and trainable.

The bad news is that we often don’t see the things our mind does that causes our difficulties, and so we blame external circumstances. But with this training, we’ll learn to see it.

So here’s how we can shift how we respond to change and stress:

  1. Notice when you’re feeling stress or resistance about change. Usually you’ll be doing one of the reactions mentioned in the previous section, so it’ll become easy to tell with a bit of practice. Going to your favorite social media or news site? You might be resisting something.

  2. Drop into the pure experience of the moment. You’re stressing and resisting because of your thoughts about your situation (or others). The thoughts are the cause of your suffering, not the situation. The situation just exists, it is not bad. So instead of continuing to be caught up in your thoughts, drop into the pure experience of the present moment. To do this, shift your awareness to what’s happening in your body right now. What sensations are there? What does the sensation of stress or awareness feel like, in your body? Don’t judge or get caught up in a narrative about the stress, just notice. Notice the sensations of your surroundings as well — what sounds can you hear? Notice the light, colors, shapes, textures. The feeling of air on your skin, or clothes on your body. When your mind gets caught up in thought, just return to the sensation of something happening right now.

  3. Open to the wide-open nature of this moment, of reality. You’re in the present moment … now notice how wide this moment is. It’s boundless, not just the narrow world of your thoughts about your life (thoughts that confine you to a small space), but actually boundless in all directions. You can label each thing you notice (chair, table, myself, dog, tree) or you can notice that actually, it’s all just one big field of energy. One big ocean of sensation, an ocean of matter and movement, with no separation between any of it. Noticing this wide-open nature of reality, not bound by labels, ideas or thoughts … we can let our minds open as vast as the sky. Don’t worry if this part is difficult at first, it’s something you can train in (which we’ll talk about in a minute).

  4. Relax into the beauty of the changing moment. From this wide-open place, we can relax our resistant mind, and just relax into the everchanging moment. Notice the beauty of this change — everything is moving, changing, shifting into a new moment. Nothing stays the same, and nothing is really solid. It’s flux, it’s flow, it’s the swirling ocean current of the universe. This is incredibly beautiful, if we can relax and enjoy it.

  5. Practice compassion, gratitude and joyful appreciation. From this relaxed place, we can start to practice three things. First, see if you can find compassion for yourself and others, for the suffering and struggle you’re going through. Send out a loving wish to all beings, that they find peace. Second, practice gratitude — can you be grateful for this moment? Can you be grateful for the change? For me, even with a jolting change like the death of my father or one of my best friends, along with the pain of loss, I could also feel gratitude that I had them in my life, which was an incredible gift. This doesn’t mean you have to ignore the pain and stress — it just means noticing that both pain andgratitude can co-exist in the same moment. Third, can you appreciate this moment for what it is? Appreciate its beauty, its swirling change, its wide openness, its heartbreaking gorgeousness. I often find joy in this appreciation for the universe as it is.

  6. Practice loving things exactly as they are. And along those lines, take a moment to love the everchanging moment exactly as it is. It includes suffering, wounded beings lashing out at others, loss and pain, but also constant shifting, constant growth and degradation, constant moving into something new. You are one with the wholeness of the universe, co-creating it with all other beings and matter and energy, and it is something to be loved fiercely.

This is the process I suggest you try.

What happens here is that we open up to change instead of resisting it. We learn to love things as they are, including the change, rather than complaining about them. We learn to find appreciation and joy in the change, rather than wishing things wouldn’t change and being attached to our comfortable ways.

Of course, we can’t go through the whole process all the time, but it’s worth going through step by step a few times, maybe one or two dozen times, until you feel like you have a physical understanding of it. With daily training, I can guarantee that something will shift in you.

Daily Training is the Key

Going through the steps above once or twice will help you learn it, but it won’t really matter on a day-to-day basis in your life until you train in it.

Daily training is the best method.

Here’s the training plan I recommend:

  1. Sit for 5 minutes in the morning. Feel free to start with just 2 minutes, and work your way to 5. When 5 minutes is too short, extend to 10. Practice the steps above. Don’t let yourself move for those 5 minutes — sit still and practice.

  2. Practice during the day. After a week, in addition to the morning training, try to notice when you are stressed or resisting change. When that happens, think of it as a mindfulness bell that is calling on you to practice. Pause, if you can, and practice, even for a few moments. You don’t have to go through the whole process, just the parts that you have time for, that are most helpful to you in the moment. Journal how these two trainings go, and share with someone else.

  3. Intermediate: Give yourself some discomfort training. After you do the first two trainings for at least a month (and two months is even better), set aside 5-10 minutes each day for discomfort training. For example, difficult exercise or a cold shower, or a writing session every morning. This session is supposed to be more than mildly uncomfortable, but not crazy uncomfortable. Somewhere in the middle. As you put yourself in this discomfort, practice the steps above. It’s more challenging than morning meditation, but doable.

  4. Advanced: Do a weeklong meditation retreat, or a week of purposeful change. After you practice for 6 months to a year, go on a weeklong meditation retreat. It will deepen your practice. Or go through a week of drastic change, that you put yourself into on purpose. For example, purposely travel around the world with very little (less than 8 lbs. in a small backpack), or go on a weeklong hike using the ultralight approach. The point of this kind of training is to give yourself an extended period of practicing with the method above. Not to see how tough you are, or anything like that. Note: It’s possible life will give you an unexpected month or more of incredible change — losing a loved one while changing jobs, or getting an illness while dealing with financial problems. If that happens, think of it as a gift of advanced training.

That’s the training. I recommend just the first two steps for most people — I think it’ll make a world of difference. The next two steps are if you want to master the method, which isn’t necessary to see some benefits.

This is a form of self care. In addition, other forms of self care are also recommended: going for a walk, exercise, taking a bath, doing yoga, eating well, getting sleep, having a support network to talk things out with, getting out in nature, creating space for solitude and silence. These are all important.

If you go deep into this practice, you’ll see some profound shifts. I know I have.

-AG

“If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be eliminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path.” ~Pema Chodron

You are more than enough!

It doesn’t matter who you used to be; what matters is who you decide to be today. You are not your mistakes. You are not your mishaps. You are not your past. You can decide differently today and at every moment. Remember that. You are offered a new opportunity with each breath you take, decide and act differently  in a way that supports you in being all that you are capable of being. Remember, you are not less than. You are more than enough. 

-AG

Paring Down Your Life

Our lives are overfull.

There’s not a single one of us who is free of that trap, in my experience. We say yes to invitations and commitments, we answer as many emails and messages as we can, we join courses and groups, buy books and take on new hobbies, get involved in new relationships and buy more stuff.

The result of this tendency to overfill is predictable:

  • We spend too much money and get into too much debt, and then have too much clutter.

  • We are always busy and always feel like we’re behind on everything.

  • We don’t have time for what’s really important — relationships, meaningful work, solitude and silence, taking care of ourselves.

  • We can’t really fulfill all of our commitments because we have too much going on.

  • We use full lives to distract ourselves from being fully present.

It’s understandable that we overfill our lives — we are usually acting on desires, and not giving full contemplation to what we want in our lives and what we don’t want.


‘You can’t act on your desires alone. You have to contemplate the details of what needs to be removed and what needs to be cultivated.’ - Chogyam Trungpa

So how do we change that? I’d like to propose paring down your life.

What It Means to Pare Down Your Life

Paring down means to cut back on what you have in your life:

  • Cut back on possessions — get rid of the extraneous clutter that is just weighing you down, and find joy in owning little.

  • Pare down your commitments — take a look at everything you’ve committed to doing, from being on committees and boards to coaching and teaching to volunteering and being a part of various projects, and more.

  • Pare down your activity online — we spend a lot of time online, usually switching constantly between tabs, cultivating a “switching” and busy mentality. Is this how we want to spend our lives? Can we let go of some of it, and let ourselves be more focused on fewer online activities?

  • Pare down how much you do in a day — we pack our days with lots of things, but what would it be like to do less?

  • Pare down hobbies, travel and other aspirational activities — we are filled with random desires to live a life of travel, activity, beauty, interestingness. But fulfilling these desires doesn’t often lead to a meaningful life, and instead leads to an overfull life. It’s not that we should never do any of these things (I travel and have hobbies), but that we should contemplate what matters most, and pare down to that.

At its core, paring down is about contemplating what you want to cultivate in your life, and what you’d like to remove.


How to Pare Down

So how do we go about doing this? Isn’t decluttering our lives just another thing to add to an overfull list?

Start with a nearly bare canvas.

Imagine for a moment that your life had only a few essentials:

  • A room with a mattress, a few changes of clothes, a sweater or jacket, a few books, a computer and a phone. A backpack for carrying things. Maybe a couch and computer desk if needed.

  • A bathroom with toilet paper and a shower with soap. Three or four toiletries.

  • Simple food of beans, rice, vegetables, fruit, nuts. A few dishes. Maybe a refrigerator, stove and dining table.

  • No workout equipment, just walking, hiking, bodyweight strength training. No hobby equipment. Maybe a bike if you need to commute, but walk most places.

These are the bare essentials for most people — there are a few other things you’d need, depending on your circumstances, but let’s not get caught up in details.

Now imagine that you could only choose a few things to do each day. For me, that might be:

  1. Meaningful work (mostly writing, with some admin tasks needed).

  2. Spending time with my family and other meaningful relationships.

  3. Reading.

  4. Meditating.

  5. Exercise.

  6. Eating simple foods.

I’d be very happy with just those things in my life! What would your six things be?

Is there anything else you’d like to cultivate? What other things would you add? Imagine a stripped-down, bare life, pared down to your essentials.

Now contemplate what could be removed to make room for just these. Leave space in your life for doing nothing. For contemplation. For being present. For silence and stillness. For the unexpected.

I realize that life won’t always be this simple, and that we have to be willing to flow with things we can’t control. We can’t always pare down commitments that we need to fulfill. We can’t always have a job with meaningful work. Relationships can complicate things. I get it.

But sometimes, we’re just making excuses not to let go. Rationalizing the status quo. Holding on to our attachments.

Paring down asks you to let go of attachments, let go of rationalizing, let go of fixed beliefs. And see what’s possible once you do let go.

-AG

Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Feel Fulfilled / Happy Thanksgiving 2018

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

– Meister Eckhart

I know today is Thanksgiving, and most of us (Americans) are “thanking” a lot of people today, however you really have to dig deeper. You don’t need to wait once a year to show your appreciation to someone or for something(s). Everyday you should show gratitude, and appreciation for everything that you have in your life.

So, many days, I try to humble myself and hold a 2-minute gratitude session. I simply sit or kneel, with no distractions, close my eyes, and think about what I’m grateful for and who I’m grateful for.

I do this routine at least 3x a week, but let me tell you, on the days I do it, it makes me very happy and fulfilled.

Why should that be? Why should the simple act of thinking about who and what I’m grateful for make such a big difference in my life?

Just a few reasons:

  • Because it reminds you of the positive things in your life. It makes you happy about the people in your life, whether they’re loved ones or just a stranger you met who was kind to you in some ways.

  • Because it turns bad things into good things. Having problems at work? Be grateful you have work. Be grateful you have challenges, and that life isn’t boring. Be grateful that you can learn from these challenges. Be thankful they make you a stronger person.

  • Because it reminds you of what’s important. It’s hard to complain about the little things when you give thanks that your children are alive and healthy. It’s hard to get stressed out over paying bills when you are grateful there is a roof over your head.

  • Because it reminds you to thank others. I’ll talk about this more below, but the simple act of saying “thank you” to someone can make a big difference in that person’s life. Calling them, emailing them, stopping by to say thank you … just taking that minute out of your life to tell them why you are grateful toward them is important to them. People like being appreciated for who they are and what they do. It costs you little, but makes someone else happy. And making someone else happy will make you happy.

What do I give thanks for, privately, in my little gratitude session? It varies every day. I thank all the readers of my blog, for the encouragement you have given me, for the time you’ve given me, just reading the articles when you have the chance.

I thank my loved ones, for all they do to me. I thank strangers who’ve shown me little acts of kindness. I thank the God, for the life he’s given me. I thank people around the world for the things they’ve done to make the world better. I thank myself, for things that I’ve done (it’s important to recognize your own accomplishments).

How to Live a Life of Gratitude
The thing is, simple acts of gratitude don’t cost you much (especially once you get over the initial discomfort some people feel with thanking others). But they can make a huge difference.

If you’re interested in living a life of gratitude, here are my suggestions:

  • Morning gratitude session. Take 2-3 minutes each morning to give thanks, to whoever or whatever you’re grateful for. You don’t have to do anything, other than close your eyes and silently give thanks. This one act can make a huge difference.

  • Say thank you. When someone does something nice for you, however small, try to remember to say thank you. And really mean it.

  • Call to say thanks. Sometimes you might think about something nice that someone did for you. Perhaps you remember during your gratitude session. When you do, pick up the phone and call the person, just to say thanks. Let them know what they did that you’re grateful for, and why you appreciate it. Takes a minute or two. If it’s too early to call, make a note to call later. Even better is telling them in person, if you happen to see them or if they’re on your route. Almost as good is a thank-you email — keep it short and sweet.

  • Give thanks for “negative” things in your life. There’s always two ways to look at something. Many times we think of something as negative — it’s stressful, harmful, sad, unfortunate, difficult. But that same thing can be looked at in a more positive way. Giving thanks for those things is a great way to remind yourself that there is good in just about everything. Problems can be seen as opportunities to grow, to be creative. See the prayer below for more on this.

  • Learn a gratitude prayer. There are many prayers, religious or not, that can remind you to be grateful. Find one you like, and print it out or make it your desktop wallpaper. Here’s a religious one, and here’s a collection from a multitude of religions. You can find many others on the Internet, or write your own. If you’re not religious, make one that doesn’t include the concept of God. I wrote a personal “gratitude prayer” below, check it out!

BE THANKFUL
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
~ Adrian Garcia ~

Focus on you for a change.

Stop worrying about other people understanding you. Get in touch with yourself instead. Focus on what makes you feel at peace. You are your biggest commitment, so start loving your flaws, your awkwardness, your weirdness, your intensity, your vulnerability, your everything. Life becomes so much more fulfilling when you are just simply yourself.

The world keeps spinning whether people understand you or not, so why not make this next trip around the sun about you? 

-AG

Block out anything that won't make you grow.

It takes a level of self love, dedication, and determination to live your greatest life. So, look within.

Look at every area of your life and ask yourself these questions:

- Am I on course?

- Am I growing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?

Anything that is blocking that, anything that is preventing you from living your greatest life, make the tough decision to let it go.

When you let go of the fear of not having enough, then you realize there’s always been enough, and there will always be enough. Just as we can learn how helpful love and compassion can be, we can come to understand that anger, pride, jealousy and arrogance can be detrimental. We can also learn to distinguish arrogant pride, looking down on others, from the useful pride that is involved in boosting our confidence.

When we live completely from the mind over a period of time, we lose touch with the infinite self, and then we begin to feel lost. This happens when we’re in ‘doing mode’ all the time, rather than ‘being mode’ the latter means letting ourselves be who and what we are without judgement. Being doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything.

It’s just that our actions stem from following our emotions and feelings while staying present in the moment. Doing, on the other hand, is future focused, with the mind creating a series of tasks that take us from here to there in order to achieve a particular outcome, regardless of our current emotional state. 

-AG

Train Your Mind Using the "Puppy Method"

The mind can be trained to do almost anything.

It can be trained, for example, to get used to any situation, like sitting in silence for a long time, or concentrating on a task.

However, usually we’re training our minds to do what we don’t want: be distracted, give in to cravings and urges, complain, avoid discomfort, procrastinate. We do this by rewarding our minds for these behaviors — if we do any of these things, we give the mind something pleasurable or comfortable. That’s exactly what we’d want to do to reinforce these behaviors.

Think about it: you’re not feeling like doing a task, and the ideal behavior would be to open up to the task, see its importance, and stay focused on it. But the behavior we normally do is put it off (procrastinate) and head to our favorite distractions. The distraction becomes its own reward, so this behavior is reinforced.

We do this all day long. Every day.

What if we wanted to train our minds to do something different?

The Superpower of Training the Mind

We can get the mind used to anything:

  • To enjoy eating healthy foods

  • To shun junk food

  • To not need to have alcohol, coffee, sugar, cigarettes, drugs

  • To not need to have video games, Youtube/Netflix, news or blogs, porn or social media

  • To stay present and mindful

  • To turn towards feelings instead of avoiding them

  • To be perfectly OK in discomfort

This then becomes a superpower. We spend so much of our time and energy avoiding things we don’t like, and trying to get things that comfort us. What if we could train ourselves to not need to avoid uncomfortable things, and not need to run to comforts? We’d be gods.

If you go to an uncomfortable social event, instead of needing to avoid, hide, or find a comfort zone … you could just stay in the discomfort and talk to people you don’t know. It wouldn’t be a problem, because you trained your mind to be fine with the discomfort.

If you normally have to have your comforts (coffee, sugary foods, soda, TV, alcohol, pot, cigarettes), you’ll spend a lot of money on them, and in many cases worsen your health and your bank account. You might avoid going places where you can’t get these things, and spend a lot of energy to make sure you could have them every day. But what if you trained your mind to not rely on them for comfort and relaxation? You could slowly get the mind used to not needing these, one at a time, so that it would be free.

It’s possible, using training methods used to train puppies.

The Puppy Training Method

The mind is like a little puppy. It responds to rewards, but needs to be trained a little at a time, until you get it doing what you want it to do consistently.

Now, I’m not saying we can 100% control our minds. Just that we can apply some reinforcement methods to get it to adjust to whatever we’d like, over time.

So let’s look at this puppy training method, and how it can be applied to our minds:

  1. Decide what your target is. If you want the puppy to do a behavior, you have to decide what that behavior is, exactly. The same with the mind: do you want it to focus, to stay in discomfort in social situations, to turn towards feelings, to be present with bodily sensations when you’re stressed, to be compassionate when someone complains? Pick one target at a time.

  2. Define a reward. What does you mind enjoy? If you like having a cup of tea, or watching TED talks on Youtube, or reading my blog posts … pick one of those for your defined reward. Try to pick something relatively healthy (don’t pick donuts), that you can give yourself immediately after you do the behavior.

  3. Train yourself in small doses. It’s unrealistic to expect your mind to stay focused all day long. It gets tired. Trying to be perfect all the time is a good way to set up failure. So instead, pick small doses — 10 minutes of meditation once or twice a day, focused work in 20-minute intervals (and only do 3 intervals) with breaks in between, 30 minutes a day of complaint-free time, for example. Once you’ve done this training in small doses, you can expand it slowly, and have confidence that you’re able to do at least small doses. Gradually, your mind will be trained to do more.

  4. Reward yourself when you hit the target. If you do 20 minutes of focused work, give yourself a small reward. For example, you get to look at your favorite social media for 2 minutes after 20 minutes of focused work. I like to drink a certain kind of coconut water after doing yoga. It’s a treat that reinforces the behavior you just did.

  5. But for difficult targets, have intermediate targets. If you want the puppy to do something complicated, you have to figure out an intermediate target. For example, if you want him to go to a certain spot, first reward him for going to the right room, then the right area of the room, then the spot. You can do the same with your mind — if the target is too difficult (a week of meditation), have a smaller target first (10 minutes of meditation) and let yourself slowly move to the target. Reward yourself for the smaller target at first, but then after that gets easy, only reward yourself for hitting the next harder target (20 minutes of meditation).

  6. Don’t punish bad behavior. But don’t reward it either. If you give in and do the negative behavior you don’t want to do (smoke pot, for example), don’t give yourself the reward. But beating yourself up isn’t helpful either. It used to be a common practice to smack the dog with a newspaper, but trainers today believe that doesn’t work as well as positive reinforcement. What do they do instead? Either ignore the bad behavior entirely (seeking to reward behavior that’s at least close to what they’re looking for), or making it clear that the bad behavior is not wanted, with a firm “No” or a firm but gentle hand interrupting the bad behavior. With the mind training, this might look like a simple firm interruption of the bad behavior (“Nope, we don’t want to keep doing that”), and then trying to go do the good behavior, and getting a reward for it. So mostly ignore the bad behavior or be firm that it’s not good, but don’t beat yourself up about it.

  7. Train one behavior at a time. Most people are tempted to try to train everything at once. That’s more of an advanced training, once you’ve trained individual behaviors. For example, if you want to stop watching Youtube, try going half a day without it (rewarding yourself with something else, not Youtube), then after you get good at that, do a full day, then two days at a time, and so on. Then you can do similar training for video games or porn, then social media. But don’t do all of them at once, unless you’ve done them all individually before.

As you can see, this isn’t as simple as just flipping a switch. This kind of training can be messy — you’ll mess up, and it won’t be simple and clear. But if you stick with it, you’ll be amazed at what you can get your puppy of a mind to do.

-AG

3 Simple Mindset Shifts to Transform Your Work Tasks

The two biggest obstacles to doing meaningful work are familiar to many of us:

  1. Burden & complaint : The work feels like a burden (difficult, overwhelming, annoying) … you might do the task but you rush through it or mentally complain about it, not wanting to do it.

  2. Unimportant & putting it off: It doesn’t feel important to do this difficult task right now … so you feel like putting it off. You rationalize why it’s OK to put it off.

Either of these sound like you? You probably recognize yourself in at least one of these (if not both), as they’re incredible common.

The first pattern makes our work (and things we have to do in our relationships and personal lives) feel like a huge burden, which makes us have a negative attitude towards the work. If you do this with your partner, they’ll feel it. If you do this with your kids or other family members, they’ll feel it. If you do this at work, your work will suck more.

The second pattern makes us rationalize not doing something we committed to doing, which makes people trust us less and makes us trust ourselves less. We don’t really feel 100% committed to anything, and are avoiding the tough commitments because they seem uncomfortable.

What would happen if you could transform those patterns and everything you have to do? What would happen if you felt 100% committed to the things that are truly important to you? What would happen if you felt joy in being able to do your tasks? It’s possible.

If these are patterns for you, I have a few simple mindset shifts to try out, that I think will transform everything:

  1. See it as a “two-way gift”. When you have a task to do, it can feel like a burden … but you could also see it as a gift. For yourself, and for others. For example: if I have to write an article, I could feel the burden of writing it … or see this opportunity to write and help others as a gift I’ve been given. And my writing as a gift to others, that might help them when they’re struggling. What a beautiful thing, to be able to receive this gift! And to give a gift to others is an incredible privilege.

  2. Remind yourself of it’s importance. Does it feel like the tasks you have in front of you aren’t that important, so that you can rationalize putting them off? Then either you’re picking the wrong tasks (pick ones that feel connected to something you care about), or you’ve forgotten the importance of that task. Making lunch for your kids? Serving your loved ones and putting food in their bellies is one of the most important things many of us do. Need to make some phone calls? Serving the relationships that those calls represent is an act of devotion to the people you care about. Same with emails and other messages. For me, writing for my blog or my social medias is important because it connects me with others who are struggling, who are practicing, who are on this beautiful journey with me. All of your hearts are incredibly important to me, and every act I do for you guys is of utmost importance. I just need to remind myself of that now and then (more often than I would often admit), and connect my heart to that meaningful mission.

  3. Meditate (briefly) on the shortness of your life. Finally, you might try reminding yourself that death is coming. That might sound morbid and unnecessarily dark, but it’s a certain fact. We only have a limited amount of time left, and we don’t know how much that is. We like to pretend that it’s forever, but it’s certainly not. If you only have a year left, how do you want to spend it? If you have limited time left, how do you want to spend today? Forgetting about what’s important and being distracted? Or pouring yourself into meaningful work and connecting your heart to what you truly care about?

With this precious day that you’ve been given as a gift … show up fully committed. Show up fully devoted to the people you care about. Show up with fierce love that is a gift to all those around you. Show up with full loving appreciation for those you’re connected to, and for the gift of this moment.

-AG

The Guide to Insecurities You’ve Been Waiting For

Everyone feels insecurity. It’s a part of our lives, which are filled with uncertainty, no matter how much we want to get rid of that uncertainty.

We often use the term “insecure” to negatively label a person who doubts themselves, but in truth, no one is free from feeling insecure. We feel self-doubt, we feel anger that stems from a feeling of insecurity, we feel fear and groundlessness and frustration. All of this comes from the insecurity of the uncertainty of life.

And none of it is a problem.

It’s not a problem that we feel insecure sometimes. It’s not a problem to feel fear or self-doubt or anger or frustration. These are just feelings, and they come up in response to the uncertainty of the world.

The problem comes from how we deal with the feeling of insecurity. We might curl up and hide, lash out at someone in a hurtful way, harden our rigid views of the world so that everyone else is wrong and we’re continually angry. We might procrastinate and run to distraction, use social media to avoid feeling insecurity, try to control others or the world around us to end the feeling of insecurity.

And so in this guide, I’m going to share a method for dealing with feelings of insecurity that are more helpful. But first, let’s dive a little more into where the feelings of insecurity come up, and how we usually deal with it.

Cause & Effect of Insecurities

Let’s look at some common examples of feeling insecure, where the feelings come from, and how people often react:

  • Jealousy in a relationship. You get jealous of someone who seems to flirt with your partner (justified or not, it doesn’t matter). The cause: You feel uncertainty about whether your partner loves you, is attracted to you (or the other person), will leave you, will hurt you. This uncertainty is certainly understandable, relationships of all kinds are filled with uncertainty. Common reaction: Lashing out at your partner (or trying to control them), making them feel less trusted, possibly hurt, possibly defensive or closed off, damaging your relationship.

  • Jealous of someone on Instagram. This applies to all social media — you see someone on there that has qualities or a lifestyle that you want (they’re beautiful, fit, living glamorously, etc.), and you feel jealous. The cause: Insecurities about yourself, whether you’re good enough in the ways this person is showing up. Also understandable, as we all have uncertainty about ourselves. Common reaction: You feel bad about yourself and/or irritated with the other person, and these can lead to a number of actions, like stalking the person with jealousy, criticizing yourself more, or comforting yourself with food, distractions, shopping, etc.

  • Irritated with the way someone acts. You see someone acting a certain way (maybe they’re being annoyingly brashly confident) … and it irritates you. The cause: Often it’s not really a problem with the other person, but more of an insecurity about yourself — you’d like to be more confident (for example) and so when the other person seems confident, it touches a wound of uncertainty about yourself. Common reaction: You get irritated with the person, shut yourself down to them, judge them, putting up a wall between yourself and others.

  • Feeling self-doubt. We all feel self-doubt about ourselves, and it can come up in many ways. The cause: This self-doubt stems from not knowing if we’re good enough to deal with the uncertainty of the world around us. We don’t know if we’re strong enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, likable enough, interesting enough to be liked, admired, loved, successful in this world. Common reaction: There are a lot of common reactions to self-doubt — hiding from doing hard things, criticizing yourself frequently, projecting your doubts on others, and more.

  • Procrastination on a difficult task. We all procrastinate, not because we’re lazy and weak, but because a task is uncertain, uncomfortable, overwhelming. The cause: The insecurity of the task comes from not knowing how to do it, fearing failure, feeling like it’s too difficult for you. Common reaction: Put off doing the uncertain task, going to a distraction or easy task that feels more secure.

  • Worried about an upcoming trip or event. You have a trip or upcoming event that feels uncertain, so you’re worrying about it a lot, maybe even thinking about not going. The cause: Just the uncertainty of the upcoming situation causes insecurity — it’s not your usual situation that you’re comfortable and familiar with. Common reaction: Lots of worrying, trying to control the situation by overplanning, lots of research, considering avoiding the event/trip.

  • Feeling overwhelmed or behind on everything. Many of us feel this almost every day at some level, but even higher when we are forced to take a break (when traveling or when we get sick, for example) and feel like we’re really behind. The cause: The uncertainty of whether we’ll be able to handle the huge workload we have, or a huge and complicated task. Common reaction: When we get this feeling, we commonly get some anxiety, and either want to shut down and run to distractions, or we lash out at others or ourselves because we don’t like the feeling, instead of just doing the work. These reactions often make the problem worse.

  • Not wanting to take part in something out of your comfort zone. Let’s say a workshop or other kind of activity that is not familiar, overwhelming, strange to you, not your usual thing, and so you might want to just avoid that kind of uncomfortable thing. The cause: The activity is completely out of your comfort zone, and causes you all kinds of uncertainty about what it will involve, how you’ll do, what you’ll be asked to do, what kind of other people will be there, what they’ll think of you. At the heart is uncertainty about whether you’ll be up to the task and whether you’ll be OK. Common reaction: Avoiding these kinds of uncomfortable activities, which means we never stretch beyond our small zone of comfort into something bigger. We limit ourselves.

As you can see, these situations (and there are many more common situations involving insecurity) all have a couple things in common:

  1. Cause is uncertainty: Our lives are uncertain. Projects and tasks and events and trips and activities are uncertain. Relationships and how other people act and what they think of us are all filled with uncertainty. Our minds feel this as a kind of insecurity, felt within the body. And then it triggers a thought pattern about ourselves, about the situation, about the other people.

  2. Common reactions are unhelpful: We avoid, shut down, run away, procrastinate, lash out at others, complain, beat ourselves up, run to distractions, shut our hearts to others, limit ourselves. These are not usually helpful patterns, but they are the ways that we habitually deal with the feeling of insecurity.

We can’t avoid the feeling of insecurity in our vastly uncertain lives. But we can find more helpful ways of dealing with the feeling.

A More Helpful Method

In short, a more helpful way of dealing with this feeling of uncertainty is to just stay in it. Learn to be OK in it. In fact, learn to see the deliciousness in it, so that we no longer have to run to our old patterns.

Here’s how I’d recommend working with the feeling of insecurity:

  1. Drop in. Notice that you’re feeling a feeling of insecurity in this moment, and drop your attention from your thoughts about the situation to the sensations in your body. Stay here for a moment, turning towards in with curiosity.

  2. Don’t act on your feeling of insecurity. Whatever you do, don’t take action from this place of insecurity. Not yet. Notice your first urge, what action you want to take … but don’t follow the urge. It might be to judge someone, complain, lash out, run to distractions, procrastinate, comfort yourself, shut your heart down, hide, avoid, quit. Don’t take that action. Just stay in the insecurity for now.

  3. Relax into it. We often feel tension and anxiety around having a feeling of insecurity. Allow yourself to relax into it, relaxing the muscles in your body that have tensed up because of the feeling of insecurity. Open your mind to this feeling, allowing it to be there, finding more curiosity about it.

  4. See that you’re OK. Sitting there in the insecurity, not acting, relaxing into it … you can check to see if you’re OK. Can you breathe deep into your belly? If so, you’re OK. You’re not in physical danger. The world isn’t literally falling apart, even if it feels a bit like it. You’re OK. Feel the goodness in your heart, that’s always there. Feel your OK-ness.

  5. Be centered in the midst of it. The feeling of insecurity hasn’t gone away, but neither have you. You’re sitting or standing in the middle of a sea of insecurity, feeling into it, relaxing into it, centering yourself in stillness. Feel your breath. Be the presence & consciousness in the center of the chaos.

  6. Find joy, gratitude & deliciousness. In the middle of this feeling of insecurity, see if you can find a little gratitude for being in this space, alive and witnessing the beauty of chaos. See if you can find a little of its nourishing deliciousness, filling yourself up with the life force of insecurity. See if you can find joy, being alive right now, fully feeling your insecurity. It’s not a problem, this feeling, it’s a beautiful experience.

Through this practice, we start to change our relationship to this feeling of insecurity. It’s not a problem, it’s completely OK. We can be friendly with it instead of needing to get away from it or banish it. It’s just a part of our human experience, nothing to panic about.

And from this place of OK-ness, we can start to find the deliciousness in this experience, the joy in it, and witness the awesome beauty of this moment, insecurity and all.

-AG

WHAT ARE YOU CONTRIBUTING TO THE WORLD?

In life a lot of things can happen, good or bad. However we as humans always have the ability to make it worth while. But also we live in a world full of negativity, that's why some of us are have been program to be negative and instead of working on ourselves and for our lives.

Our mission on this planet, is to pass through our minds. The reason why is because, life is too short and unpredictable to have negativity in our lives. We are here to guide ourselves to have a better mindset about our life.

SO, WHAT ARE YOU CONTRIBUTING TO THE WORLD?

-AG